Monday, May 26, 2014

A Journey to Norfolk to Look for John Bates

A couple of weeks ago Alisa and I went to England on a family history search. We met many wonderful people on our journey that we now call friends. Rural England is very friendly, and beautiful.

Alisa was looking for her great grandmother. Her grandfather was born in Liverpool. We found sources for both of them, and many likely clues which she is diligently pursuing. After 3 days in Lancashire, it was off to Norfolk to look for our ggg grandfather John Bates.

After pursuing all the leads that I am aware of, below is the current facts that we know about his early life:

From the book "The King's Passengers to Maryland and Virginia," by Peter Coldham, it appears that our grandfather, John Bates, was an indentured servant that was sent from England in 1770 and he was born in either 1744 or 1748.

On page 267, we find the following:

Runaway Felons:

Bates, John, English, age 27. From Benjamin Howard, Anne Arundel Co MD (MG 8 June - 13 July 1771)
Bates, Rowland, age 23. From Caleb Dorsey, Anne Arundel Co. Md (MG 10 Jun 1772).

In the Maryland Gazette, 20 June, 1771, we read, in part: Twenty Pounds Reward
   Ran away from the subscribers plantations, near Elk Ridge Landing, the four following convict servants ...
   John Bate, about 23 years of age, 5 feet 5 inches high, of fair complexion, with short straight brown hair. Had on when he went away a blue halfthick jacket, a felt hat, about half worn, a new Ofnabrig shirt, old crocus trousers, no shoes or stockings
   John Bates, about 27 or 28 years of age, a stout well looking fellow, of fair complexion, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches tall ...
   They were all Englishmen.

From this we know that there were two different John's, one younger than the other.

From the Norfolk Assize Court files in the UK National Archives, we read about these two men's cases:

ASSI 33/4 Lent Session, 1770

Verdict - John Bates, Laborer, 13th January, Last, at Biggleswade. Stealing 1 live drake and 6 or 4 live ducks, goods of John Britton.

ASSI 33/5 Summer Session, 1770

Reprieved ---- Now ordered to do Transport for 14 years. John Bate Laborer. 24 June Last at Morningthorpe. One mare price 10 pounds. Goods of William Cole and James Cole, Executors of John Cole, deceased.

Both men were indentured servants of Benjamin Howard. Mr. Howard was a prominent landowner in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland, and the son of Phillip Howard. However, before John's seven to fourteen-year servitude was completed, he ran away. Indications are that he ran away in the first year of his servitude, before the Revolutionary War broke out. About 5 years later, he got married and joined the Continental Army. Anne Arundel County is about 20 miles from Prince George's County, where I believe he met and married Rebekah Beall (b. 1762), daughter of James and Elizabeth Beall. They were probably married around 1776. John C,. Mary and Zachariah were born abt. 1777, 1780, and 1781 in Maryland or Virginia.

So, after hours of searching through the parish records of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Bedfordshire, as well as the National Archives, who are the most likely persons to be our grandfather? In no particular order, here goes:

I am fairly confident that the John Bates, age 27 in 1771, that stole the ducks in Biggleswade one of these two persons:

John Bates, born 1746, in Old Warden, Bedfordshire, chr. 15 Feb 1747. Here is what was reported about his family on Ancestry, and verified by parish records:

John Bates. b. 18 Jun 1717, Old Warden, Bedfordshire
Mary Bareford, b. 1721, Wilshamstead, Bedfordshire
     Thomas Bates, b. 1742, Old Warden, Bedfordshire
     Mary Bates, b. 1744, Old Warden, Bedfordshire
     John Bates, b. 1746, Old Warden, Bedfordshire
     Ann Bates, b. 1754, Old Warden, Bedfordshire

The decedents of Thomas and Mary have been documented, but I could not find a death, burial, marriage, or other information for this John.

John Betts, Maulden, Bedfordshire
     Mary, chr. 18 Jul 1740
     Fanny, chr 28 Nov 1741
     Susan, chr. 28 Jan 1743
     William, chr. 15 Jul 1744
     John, chr. 21 Jul 1746, Maulden
     Susan, 1748

As far as Betts, Bates, Bites, etc., this is what I learned. I found members in the same family that were both Bates and Betts. I found 2 individuals that one pastor recorded them at Betts, and later as Bates. This makes our search more difficult. But after being there, and realizing that many of these people could not write, and signed their name with an X, and perhaps the spelling was up to the interpretation of the person writing it down. Maybe some preferred one, and some the other. Regardless, I believe that many Bates and Betts in Norfolk are of the same family. Incidentally, there are 8444 individual baptisms recorded in Norfolk from 1550 to 1879 with persons bearing a name that sounds like Bates (

The John Bate(s) arrested at Morningthorpe has a few more possibilities. Here are the ones I see as the highest probability. I should mention, however, that I did an England-wide search for a John Bate, and did not find any likely candidates.

John Bates, of Tibenham, Norfolk
Letitia, of Tibenham, Norfolk
     John, chr. 6 Dec 1745, Tibenham
     Ann, chr. 20 Dec 1747
     Elizabeth, chr. 1 Jan 1750
     Letitice, chr. 26 Nov 1752
     Mary, chr. 2 May 1766
     Thomas, bur. 21 Apr 1765, Tibenham

The second:

John Bates,chr. 17 Feb 1748, the base son (illegitimate child) of Mary Bates, Yelverton, Norfolk.

Mary may be the daughter of Edmund and Martha Betts of Yelverton. Based on parish records I found, they appear to related to Betts in Tivetshall St. Margarets. Edmund and Martha may have 4 children I can identify, Ann, b. 1735, Edmund, Mary, and Sarah. However, Mary may not be related to Edmund. Both families have the same file number in the parish records, but the file number may be the same for all individuals recorded at that time. This bears further research.

As I stated, however, Mary may not be a daughter of Edmund, but rather a sister-in-law. It has been suggested that since the have the same file no. they may have lived in the same house. I did find a Mary that married a John Bates in 1744 in South Norfolk. John Bates of Banham (3 miles from Tibenham) married Mary Law of Bressingham by license in 1744 in Tivetshall St. Margarets. Perhaps John died and Mary lived near or with Edmund, her brother in law. Edmund's possible son, Edmund, lived in Tivetshall St. Margaret at least from 1749 to 1766.

There is a John Bates, son of Thomas Bates or Betts of Woodton, but he passed away in 1774 in Tivetshall, St. Margarets. There is also a John Bates, son of William and Elizabeth Bates of Tivetshall, St. Margarets, b. 1748, but he only lived two days after he was baptized.

There was also a John Bates of Hoxne, Suffolk, just across the countyline. He was fined for having a base born child in the Norfolk Quarter Sessions in 1770. However, the last entry dealing with his case was in Jan. 1771, leading me to think that this is not him, because our John was already in Maryland by then. There is a possibility that it could be him, however. It is unfortunate that the Assize files on the cases on both John's neglected to state their residence or give other helpful information. Which one is our grandfather is also unknown, however, given the ages, it seems more likely that he is the one arrested in Morningthorpe.Our grandfather was between the ages of 80 and 89 in 1830, while living in York, S.C. He died in 1833, so either could be him, but the younger seems more likely.

This sums up what I have found. I did look at a lot more John Bates, Betts, etc., and there may be more that I did not find. However, with these four, none of them seemed to leave a forwarding address, leading to the likelihood that two of them could be the John's sentenced and sent from England to Maryland. If we tie into these families in South Norfolk or Bedfordshire, we will be able to push our lineage back several generations. If anyone can shed any more light on any of this, please make a comment or contact me at

Bill Bates
Price, Utah


  1. Just a short jaunt across the pond. We went to Liverpool, Norwich and London.